On Saturday, the UFC holds its next event, UFC Fight Night 130, in Liverpool, England. This will mark the first time the organization has landed in one of the most iconic cities in England. The main event is expected to be nothing but excitement between two very elite strikers, including hometown boy Darren Till.
Till was a relative unknown before he earned a statement-making victory against Donald Cerrone in October. The win immediately placed Till among the contenders in the division. He currently sits in the No. 8 spot in the UFC’s official rankings poll.
The UFC’s intentions are quite clear when it comes to what to do with Till. The company wants to turn him into a superstar and a marketable champion, the next superstar for England with Michael Bisping on the verge of retirement. Till has a massive opportunity at a very early time in his career to jump straight to fighting for the title after competing against just two guys in the top 10.
That is, if he can get it done.
Till is up against a very tough opponent in Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Thompson doesn’t need much introduction at this point. He’s a two-time title challenger, a legendary kickboxer and easily one of the best strikers in the sport right now. When it comes to a challenge in the welterweight division, it doesn’t get much harder than a fight with Thompson.
There are many different opinions out there on this fight. It was actually quite shocking to see so many people say that Till is going to run through Wonderboy. Really? Till is phenomenal and definitely has the future potential to be champion, but are we really just going to dismiss Thompson as another gatekeeper?
If we had done so with Cerrone, then that would have been understandable. The “Cowboy” had struggled in his previous two fights before he squared off with Till. More importantly, Cerrone is not even a natural welterweight.
To do the same thing with Thompson? Not so easy. Till hasn’t earned the right to be viewed as such a superior force compared with a two-time title challenger, and Thompson suffered his only recent loss to current welterweight kingpin Tyron Woodley.
There’s no shame in being on the Darren Till bandwagon right now. It’s completely understandable. However, let’s not forget what Thompson has accomplished, both inside the Octagon and in other combat sports. An argument could be made, too, that Thompson won his second fight against Woodley after their first contest ended in a draw. In his very next fight, Thompson came back and dominated Jorge Masvidal, one of the best in the division. Even before fighting for the title, Wonderboy had dominated Rory MacDonald, Johny Hendricks and Jake Ellenberger.
Thompson, 35, is getting up there in age, but his most recent performance gives us all the reason to believe that he’s still well in his prime. So, let’s look at the fight purely from the stylistic point of view:
Both Thompson and Till are strikers. Till has yet to prove he’s the better striker, because of the level of competition faced. If you’re Thompson, this match-up is far easier than a fight against someone like Woodley. With Thompson likely not too concerned about the takedown, can Till really find a way to either out-strike Thompson or catch him with a big shot or two for the finish?
The beautiful thing about this sport is that we never know. If this fight was logically broken down, the edge should lean toward Thompson, because he has been battle-tested and proven time and time again. This is the first top contender Till has fought in the promotion. The Brit is far from a shoo-in to win this fight.